Sunday, December 14, 2003

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Strike two for the EU

Three weeks after the collapse of the European Union's growth and stability pact, it looks like the proposed EU consitution is dead on arrival. From the Washington Post:

Negotiations on a new European constitution collapsed in acrimony Saturday, with the 25 current and future members of the European Union failing to find a formula to satisfy medium-size countries worried that their voices and votes would be swamped by larger countries in an expanded union.

The failure left the EU facing one of the most critical crises of its history and could formalize an already visible split in the organization. Diplomats said several of the founding EU members, including France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, could soon issue a statement saying they were prepared to proceed on their own fast track, with deeper integration and shared policies.

French President Jacques Chirac raised the idea of a two-speed Europe immediately after the talks failed. He said a smaller "pioneer group" could go forward on areas of common agreement. "It would be a motor that would set an example," Chirac said. "It will allow Europe to go faster, better." He did not specify policy areas where the core group might move forward.

EU leaders, normally given to diplomatic language and positive "spin," did not try to mask their failure. "It has not been possible to reach agreement on all points," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The meeting could have continued, Blair said, but "there's no point in negotiations going on through the night. It's better to wait and get the right agreement."

Blair's hit the nail on the head. Much of European integration has been based on the "bicycle theory" -- the idea that if integration does not keep moving forward, the whole project will topple over. This has led to the implementation of some less-than-ideal policies/governance structures on the logic that they were "too big to fail."

A reappraisal might be the best thing for the European Union, and its member states.

As for Chirac's proposal, it's tough to see how it could be applied towards the proposed constitution. The two-track EU works by dividing up issue areas. The constitution is about process. That's slightly more difficult to parse out.

posted by Dan on 12.14.03 at 12:14 AM


I’ve always thought that this European union stuff was a bit too hopeful. If nothing else, an economically vital nation must reject socialist policies. France and Germany are too committed to the welfare state and envying the United States. This inevitably would compel the other more realistic countries to tell them to politely go to hell. Also, these smaller countries would have to trust the French. Would you feel comfortable trusting Jacques Chirac and Dominque de Villepin?

Attempting to accomplish such a goal at this late date is an incredibly difficult undertaking. America unified its core states right from the very beginning. Still, we had a civil war killing half a million soldiers! Adding states like Texas, Alaska, and Hawaii was done very gradually. The last two, for instance, became states only in 1959. There was absolutley no rush to unity.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.14.03 at 12:14 AM [permalink]

Hey Dave, what are you writing about now?

posted by: TommyG on 12.14.03 at 12:14 AM [permalink]

Nice analysis Dan, although I am sensing a recurring theme in some of these comments sections.


posted by: Waffle on 12.14.03 at 12:14 AM [permalink]

“Hey Dave, what are you writing about now?”

I’m such a nice guy that I’ve decided to provide you with some knowledge.
There is a widespread myth that America is the new kid on the block; the European nations are supposedly ancient and therefore wiser in the ways of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our constitution is over two hundred years old. Virtual every European country has had numerous constitutions and political rebirths. We are not only the preeminent military and economic power---but we are literally this planet’s elder governmental entity.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.14.03 at 12:14 AM [permalink]

I am anteing on my bet against the EU. i still say they are going down and going down hard.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 12.14.03 at 12:14 AM [permalink]

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